Google Places Gains New Ally in Review Battle with Yelp

Google has been in a pitched tussle with Yelp for quite some time. Google introduced reviews to local in 2007 and the fun began. Yelp reviews in Google, Yelp reviews out of Google, Yelp’s anger at Google’s use of their content, Google contrition, a large offer by Google and a failed buyout, Yelp reviews out of Google and in once again, more Yelp complaints… Google couldn’t seem to win but in typical Google fashion they kept plugging away. They weren’t giving up in the review arena.

Finally with the release of Hotpot last year and Google’s subsequent  success in garnering ratings and reviews things started to change on the review front. Research was indicating that Google was making strides and soon Google stepped out and into the “we have lots of reviews game”. Yelp of course rose to the bait and insisted on engaging in the my review corpus is bigger than yours type posturing.

The changes yesterday in 3rd party review handling will change this review competition once again and tilt the playing field a little further towards Google in their battle with Yelp. While I don’t think the change should affect SMBs’ review management plans, it will do just that. Companies that saw their display count drop from 250 to 5 on the front page of Google will shift their efforts to regain an advantage. They will shift their review solicitation plans to refocus their client’s attention on Google.

Google has just gained an unwitting ally in their multi year battle with Yelp on the review front.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Places Gains New Ally in Review Battle with Yelp by

10 thoughts on “Google Places Gains New Ally in Review Battle with Yelp”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Demand Force… is this a review aggregator? I read a little bit on their website but am confused as to whether they are simply providing a paid reputation management and marketing service (among other things), or whether they are compiling reviews from various sources without naming those sources.

    Thanks!

  2. @Keith
    They are a practice management company that offers review solicitation/mgt/response as one of their services. Originally they had a direct feed into Google Places and were the only 3rd party service to have one, giving them a unique advantage in showing reviews.

  3. @Keith,

    I believe that Demand Force is primarily a resource and/or review platform for dentists and that they may be a bridge that helps dentist solicit reviews from patients.

  4. Mike,
    I think all of Yelp’s yipping is only going to hurt them. Google is building Places for the future of Search, which in my opinion is going more and more local. If Google just bans Yelp reviews even from the 3rd party reviews listed separately in Google Places, don’t you think this will hurt Yelp? Or at least their exposure to Google users.

    One more question concerning citations. It is my opinion that citations still play a heavy role in the placement of your local Google Places listing, along with the strength of your website, even though you are no longer able to see them. Is this your opinion? Pretty sure Google has not just taken the weight of citations out of their algorithm.

  5. Mike and James,

    I apologize for my earlier comment. I saw Mike’s 2 arrows pointing specifically at the demandforce.com link and thought they were specifically pointing out some relationship between demand force and Places. Wow… apparently it has been a long week as I TOTALLY misunderstood the theme of the post and what Google is up to.

    Now that I understand I’m cursing Google. While I’m patiently waiting for Google to create a cluster around my new NAP, I have been having customers write reviews across different 3rd party review sites over the past month. BTW, thank you again Mike for the ‘timeline for local listings’ entry from last month. If not for reading that I would be inclined to create a new Place Page ahead of them creating that cluster in light of this particular blog.

    I’m not good at being patient, so hopefully Google will allow me the opportunity to have a Place Page to solicit some reviews before the end of the year! :o

  6. @Keith, @James

    DemandForce is highly misunderstood and I’m a partner and work pretty closely with them, so wanted to chime in and explain.

    Their main service is not Google reviews at all. That’s just a free value add.

    Their primary service, what Dentists pay for is practice-building via activation, recall and patient reminders. They guarantee their service will more than pay for itself in those respects or the service is free.

    How do reviews fit in? To do recall, reactivation and appointment reminders, they have to tie into the practice management system and the patient database. So smartly IMO they tied in a system a Dr. can set up to email the pt after the appt while the visit is fresh in their mind and ask for their feedback.

    There’s no friction because pts don’t have to go somewhere, set up an acct. yada, yada. There can be no fake reviews because reviews only come from the active patient base. Reviews get posted to the Drs. DF reputation page. Then the feed sends them to Google.

    FYI, that’s just off the top of my head based on demos I’ve had. Not saying I explained it perfectly. Maybe should have copied from the site. But in a nutshell it’s close. I used to be a Dental Practice Management Consultant and did seminars all over the country teaching Dentists how to build their practice. So just the practic-building features are pretty impressive to me.

    The Google Places reviews (and even more so the citations, which most people don’t realize DF even has a bigger impact on) are just a nice value-add.

    But of course with Google’s increased focus on local and reviews as part of the algo, lots of Dentist DO get DF mainly for the review aspect. Many Dentists don’t realize that even if they get a ton of DF reviews – if they don’t set up DF right, if they have dupes, if their Place page isn’t optimized well they won’t necessarily rank.

    Also DF serves other markets like Chiropractors, Optometrists, Auto. But they are most well known in the Dental industry.

    /> end DF lesson. Sorry, LOL :-)

  7. Hi Mike

    I am in Australia and Yelp has just launched here. They are using Sensis’ database (they own white and yellow pages) to get the initial business listings. If you are able to, I would like your thoughts on what a local business should focus on going forward (I manage the marketing of our local martial arts dojo in Brisbane, Australia).

    What I have found is that whilst we have never had a strong review site like Yelp, people still have not flocked to reviewing on Google Places either as they tend to have a more complex sign in process (particularly if you don’t have an existing Google Account or Gmail). The additional steps of creating the account, then going to the places page, then signing up for Hotpot just seems too much for the locals here. Also the Google Places app is absolutely hopeless. I get the feeling that whilst Google is great at sorting data, they are sometimes poor at relating to the standard person that uses it (when it comes to interaction with that data).

    At the same time, it seems that Yelp may be having some issues in the US around maintaining their power if their relationship with Google continues to deteriorate.

    So now I am stuck with a decision, push for Yelp as I know my customers can just sign in with a new account that is easy to do or link to their Facebook profile. Or focus on Google Places which I have done in the past, and whilst our customer base is extremely loyal and will do what you say (seeings as you listen to your Sensei) we still have not had great adoption of reviewing. Also the whole, Google Places merging, duplicating and what not doesn’t help.

    Are you able to help out with this decision? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  8. @Jay

    I never see opportunity and choice as either or propositions. Just because Yelp has moved into your neck of the woods should have no bearing on whether you do reviews at Google.

    You always need to consider the customer needs first, your needs second and come up with a process that respects the customers AND does well by your business.

    The reality is that things are hard for you with google and they will be hard with Yelp. Yelp will burry/hide many reviews from new reviewers so it will be frustrating for you and them on occassion just as Google is now.

    I would suggest that you let your customers make the choice. Make it easy for them to go either place to leave a review. Some won’t be able to log in, some will have their reviews buried. That is just the nature of the game.

    As long as you have a few clients that succeed each month you will be fine.

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